Showing posts with label Missing Lynx. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Missing Lynx. Show all posts

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The 6th Sense in Your Plotline: Psychics 101 for Writers

English: Energy Arc, central electrode of a Pl...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
I would like to introduce a friend of mine. I will call her "Winter". Like many with psychic abilities, Winter prefers to remain anonymous because she holds an executive's job and there is a stigma to having 6th sense abilities. Winter has inspired many of the scenes in my Lynx series. 

Lately, I have been reading a lot of works that include 6th sense abilities and thought a writer's primmer might be helpful. 

Winter, would you tell us about your psychic strengths and back ground (in a general way).

Winter - 
Hello! Growing up I was a very emotional tween and teenager. I never knew how I would feel or what was causing me to feel, but it was all so intense and exhausting. I remember my mom saying to me, "This isn't the real you." But I didn't know what she meant.

Years later, in my twenties, I learned that I was an Empath and Highly Sensitive Person. An Empath is someone who doesn't just empathize with someone else's plight but who actually feels their emotions in his or her own body, often confusing them for his/her own emotions because they are so vivid and real (an Empath can't tell is she's angry or if that guy next to her is angry). A Highly Sensitive Person is someone who is sensitive not only to other people's emotions, but also to the energy of the environment around you.

Being psychically aware of both my environment and the people around me was draining, exhausting, overwhelming and made me feel crazy until I learned how to manage it.

Now, I would say that being able to pick up on what people are feeling and the general vibe of any situation or environment is a strength that serves me in everything I do in life, as long as I'm able to stay in a neutral observer role and witness the information instead of experience it in my body as if it were my own.

Fiona - 
You are also clairvoyant can you define that term and give us a list of other abilities someone might experience as a 6th sense?

Winter - 
Clairvoyant means being able to see energy and pictures in your mind's eye that give information about a situation or person. Some of the other ways of processing 6th sense information could be a strong knowing in your gut or mind without being able to say how you know it, hearing information in your mind, empathy which I mentioned already. Also information could come through dreams or through objects or places that hold an energetic impression. Also someone might experience the ability to give others healing energy.

Fiona -
Here's a short list of some skill set terms your character might have developed so you can do your research (with folks who actually have the skills). 
  • Reading auras - Perception of energy fields surrounding people, places and things
  • Auto-writing - Writing produced without conscious thought.
  • Astral projection also called OBE or out of body experience - in which an "essence" or "soul" becomes separate from the physical body.
  • Clairvoyant - to see
  • Clairaudient - to hear
  • Clairsentient - to feel
  • Divining - Gaining insight into a situation, most commonly through a ritual or use of a tool such as a pendulum or cards
  • Dowsing - Ability to locate objects, sometimes using a tool called a dowsing rod, pendulum etc.
  • Energetic healing (such as Reiki) - Healing by channeling energy. This is often accompanied with information such as clairvoyance, clairsence, or clairaudience.
  • Channeling (medium) - Communicating with spirits.
  • Premonition and precognition - Perception of events before they happen.
  • Psychometry - Obtaining information about a person or object, usually by touching or concentrating on the object or a related object.
  • Remote viewing - Gathering of information at a distance.
  • Retrocognition - Perception of past events such as crime scene investigators. In my Lynx series, Lexi's mentor uses retrocognition to solve crimes.
  • Scrying - Use of a reflective item to view events at a distance or in the future. Crystal balls, puddles of water, mirrors can be used for srcying, for example.
  • Telepathy - Transfer of thoughts, words or emotions in either direction.

Using the sixth sense is on a continuum. Some people, like yourself, Winter, are born with or grow into their psychic abilities. Some are jarred into their abilities from a traumatic experience. In most people I speak to, it's not a "gift" at all. Being psychic is quite overwhelming and invasive. Some people will think they are going crazy and self- medicate with alcohol and drugs to make the feelings go away, others like Lexi in my books, and you in real life, train and practice to understand their abilities and use them proactively. Can you discuss training?

Winter -
Sure. I was motivated in my 20's to start training because I was so uncomfortable and unhappy. I started with something simple - meditation. I found that making quiet space every day helped me start to be able to tell the difference between what was mine, and what feelings belonged to others. I started studying with different teachers to learn as much as I could and find techniques to try to manage what was happening to me. There are teachers out there approaching this stuff from every angle, and now that we're all online it's easy to find a teacher or class or book or exercises that you can experiment with on your own. There's no one practice that fits all - it's going to vary based on your particular situation and what works for you with your lifestyle and maybe even belief system/religion.

What was helpful for me personally was studying how energy moves around the environment and in the body with a Qi Gong teacher and then further with the Reiki system. I found the Reiki principles to be particularly helpful as a guidance system for how to handle tricky situations I found myself in with too much information about other people and places. And my daily meditation practice has been a centering force in my life. I start every day with meditation so that I know what is "me" and can hold onto that awareness as I move throughout the world. Also included in my daily meditation is an important aspect that I consider as essential to well being as brushing your teeth: a practice of grounding, helping the body connect to the earth and feel safe and deliberately releasing all the energy that isn't yours that you've picked up through your daily life.

I believe the key to managing your sixth sense is trial and error and experimentation until you find practices that work for you. Then practice them every day, but also give yourself permission for your practice to evolve as you evolve.

Fiona - 
You've read my Lynx series and while I pushed the envelope in that Lexi is visibly physically hurt when she connects with the victims she's trying to help, this does happen in true life. Can you talk about taking on other's pain?

Winter -
Thankfully, I have not experienced the degree of physical damage that Lexi experiences in my life, but you're right that without the right "tools" people can inadvertently take on other people's pain.

When we haven't built up the psychic muscles to keep ourselves distinct from a person we are trying to help (or who just happen to be in our proximity), we can get overwhelmed and all the signals crossed so that we are feeling their physical discomfort and pain as well as their emotional pain and suffering. We might actually be such great "healers" that we allow others to consciously or unconsciously use us as a vessel for dumping their pain, so they feel better. 

This is how ancient/traditional shamans worked - sacrificing their own well-being for another's. While noble, this is not necessary for helping others. In fact it really ends up being unhealthy and detrimental. There are other ways of helping others that don't come at a cost for you personally. I loved how in the book series Lexi is eventually exposed to more advanced ways of working with her psychic abilities that weren't so painful for her.

Fiona - 
When you read a book or see a show that includes a character with psychic abilities - what do you see often portrayed incorrectly?

Winter - 
Hmm great question. What comes to mind right away is a show I loved, where I feel the character was portrayed correctly! It was called Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt. In the series, she faced many challenging situations, but she always knew that she was safe and could yell STOP to reign in the visions she was receiving when they were too intense and painful. She trusted her abilities, and while they sent her on adventure every episode, her faith and confidence in herself was very empowering to watch as someone with six sense abilities.

A lot of what is portrayed incorrectly is how otherworldly information is communicating with us - it's not usually big and dramatic and furniture moving type communication. It's a hunch or a whisper or an insight that gives us a subtle clue, and then we can use our tools (like meditation, or oracle cards or pendulums etc... ) to dig in for further information. We are detectives a lot of the time. Also characters with these abilities are often shown as evil or using their abilities to hurt others, but I believe most people with a six sense want to help themselves and their families with the information they receive. They just don't always know how.

Fiona - 
How does someone with psychic abilities use the information they receive?

Winter - 
How we use the information we receive from our other senses is an important topic. Most of us are compassionate people, and we want to use it to help others. But we have to be very careful to stay neutral and allow others to grow or heal at their own pace. We have to be careful we don't become invested in changing someone or their situation because of the information we have received, as a lot of the time it is not about us. And we have to let others have their own journeys.­­­ Sometimes we receive information that it's just not our place or the right time to share with someone else. Or sometimes they just aren't ready to receive the information. There's a lot of moral and ethical gray area here about how to proceed. ­­­­­

Fiona - 
Along that vein can you talk about psychic ethics and why they're important? I remember a scene from Practical Magic where the woman is warned by the aunts that a love spell "making" a particular person fall in love with them was a bad idea.

Winter - 
Yes! I agree with the aunts on that completely. As human beings we have free will - to grow, to heal, to learn our lessons, to love etc... Trying to put our own agenda on another person is manipulation and unethical. It interferes with how the Universe works. 

Our jobs are to become the best versions of ourselves, not to change others. That never goes well whether manipulation is done psychically or verbally or abusively, the energy becomes warped and twisted and it's just not going to produce the results someone hopes for, even with the best intentions. A better approach to a love spell or healing would be two parts - to focus on removing barriers inside yourself to falling in love or being healed - and to open yourself up to receiving the love or healing you desire in whatever form the Universe finds fits you best. Then you are not manipulating free will, and you are focused on yourself. The Universe brings you the solutions when you are ready to receive them.

Also when it comes to healing, one important thing to know is that healing is not the same as curing. We can sometimes help others heal by sharing information, love, compassion, even healing energy - but it is a healing on an energetic or spirit level. The free will is still here - the journey that person's spirit chooses may or may not include the curing of the body or saving of the life, and we can't force an outcome we prefer.

Fiona - 
What did you hope I'd ask but I didn't? What w
ould you like writers to know when they write a character with psychic ability?

Winter - 
Well one thing I'd like writers to know is that not all of us with psychic ability are easy to spot. We aren't all wacky, burning incense, dressed in robes with moons and stars on them ­and known to be eccentric or weird. So many of us have regular jobs, do normal things like go to gym, try to figure out what's for dinner, and pay the bills. 

This private other side of us isn't apparent to most people meet us. We don't divulge or let people in on this side of us, unless its absolutely necessary or we trust and know the person is open minded or has similar abilities. Look around a room and there is probably someone in there with psychic abilities that you would never have guessed.

Fiona - 
It's true, if you met Winter, you would never guess how much she can know/read about you. Luckily, she is highly ethical. Is your character equally ethical with their 6th sense?

As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Drawing from a Side Holster: Information for Writers

Hi ThrillWriters,

I just watched a movie with hubby, and as you might guess, the
person wielding their weapon was doing a pretty scary job of flagging (letting the barrel of the gun pass over) all the good guys, putting them in danger. 

And I would swear that he shot himself in his own hand  a few times.

But AMAZINGLY every single bullet out of his gun hit bulls eye. WHOOP! LOL

So I thought I'd go over the steps so if you're writing a heroine drawing her gun - that you can keep everyone safe.

BTW I put this picture up here at the top to tell you this little story. In my holster class (regularly required at my gun range in order to use the tactical ranges.) we are required to shoot from this position in one of the drills. It's actually #4   in the progression (we'll get to that in a second). The idea is, the villain is charging the heroine, and she doesn't have time to get her gun into position. So one shoots two bullets from here, then steps back for the rest of the steps.

Can I just say, this is very scary. Not so much for the men in my class, but having a pistol fired right beside the girls that way? Terrifying. Luckily, our instructor is a woman and she taught me how to cant the pistol a bit. Still. . . I close my eyes when I pull that trigger. 'Cause you know, closing my eyes will keep me safe.

written for a right-eyed shooter (not the same as a right handed person) reverse if your heroine is a left-eyed shooter.

1. Decide to draw.
Please note, I'm about to draw from my right side. As my hand descends toward the gun, 
my LEFT HAND isn't waving in the wind.
Your heroine makes a fist and puts it on her chest.

2. Position hand for the draw:

Right hand to grip (the handle) Left hand to chest. 

This is actually really important, how you place your heroine's hand on that gun in this moment will determine how well she's positioned to take the shot and get it on target.

See how far up the webbing between my thumb and forefinger I shove my hand up under the lip?

See that my trigger finger is NOT reaching for the trigger. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot. Lay the trigger finger along the trigger cage.

3.) Pull
Right hand pull. Left hand on chest. 

If the heroine is using a safety holster, this is the point where your heroine would release the safety device.

Draw the gun straight up by bending the elbow. 

4) Rotate to Target
Right hand turns the gun toward the target. Left hand to chest.

Release safety in case your heroine needs to shoot from this position.

Putting the gun on target prevents your heroine from flagging and possibly shooting the wrong thing.

If required, your heroine can shoot from this position. That works best, of course, if the target is very close. This is, for example, the position your heroine would shoot from if the target was right up on her. 

This position would also make it much harder for someone to get your gun from your heroine and turn the gun on her.

5.) Extend
This is the first time the left hand leaves the heroine's chest. The right hand extends and the thumbs come together on the grip.

The finger is STILL off the trigger, resting on the trigger guard.

The heroine will then punch out. Her eye is on her target and remains on her target as she brings the sights up. and she can line up her shot.

THE SHOT(S) is taken. If necessary, your heroine has changed magazines (which holds the bullets). The villain has fled or the threat is otherwise removed.

6) Sweep and Assess
The heroine turns her head and looks around her to make sure there are no other threats. 

Being trained, she will have her go-to means of doing this. She may:
a. Sweep with gaze and gun together
b. Sweep with gun held in front ready position
c. Sweep with her hands in low ready position as I am here in this photo.

Once the heroine has decided that the area is clear of imminent danger,

7.) Re-holster
Right hand returns gun to the security of the holster. Left hand returns to chest.

And as E.A. Lake kindly pointed out in the comments, if your heroine's gun has a safety, she'll want to make sure it's reengaged before her hand comes off the gun.

Now, can your heroine do this after reading my blog?
Can she do it after a quick class up at the range?

In order for your heroine to have these movements available to her in a threatening situation, she needs to have committed the moves to muscle memory. Muscle memory is stored in long term storage, yep, that means she needs to have practiced for at least 21 days. My master at TKD says that until you throw a punch correctly a thousand times -- most of that in very slow motion so each movement is correct -- then you cannot throw a punch.

A thousand times. That's a lot. She'd have to draw that gun 48 times a day for 21 days to get this down. See what I mean? It's not an "okay, I've got this" deal. You don't have to write that your heroine knows what she's doing. She could just wing it. But -- you can't make her a novice at one aspect and a master at another. She may be able to make perfect bulls eyes on the range, but doing it from a draw where the hands have to be precise, and the target needs to be acquired very quickly, that's a whole different skill set.

The nice thing about writing is when things aren't easy then the story becomes interesting.

Hope this helps! Happy writing.

And as always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What's in Your Wallet? Every Day Carry for Your Character: Info for Writers

Do you remember watching that old game show "Let's Make a Deal"? Monty Hall would ask women to reach into their purses and pull out absurd things, pieces of cheese and such. As a kid, I wondered what thought process the women would go through when making their choices of what to bring to the show -- just in case it got them an opportunity to play the game.

I thought about this again when I was reading Janet Evanovich's By the Numbers series. Stephanie Plumb had a gun and maybe some bullets in her purse. . .somewhere. . . 

What your character carries with them is a big insight into the character's thought process, background, and lifestyle. As an example, I'm going to show you the inside of my purse so you can see what I mean.

Ta dah! This is my purse with the insides pulled out. 

It weighs a TON!

In the center of the black organizer is this toiletry bag

Which looks like this when opened.

By now you might be thinking, wow this chick is VERY organized. 

When it comes to my purse, I am. 

Just like a bag carried by a military person or an EMT, my bag is there for convenience and to save lives. It has saved lives many times. So I am very careful with how things are packed into my bag.

This is what's inside that toiletry bag:

On the right of the bag are the everyday niceties: 

  • chapstick - outdoors a lot
  • deodorant - two teens
  • lotion

On the left tools/safety

  • paracord (blog article)
  • swiss army type knife
  • small leatherman
  • Glucose tabs (to counter low blood sugar)

In the center go six specialized mini-kits:

Kit #1 (MOST important)

  • diabetic meter
  • test strips and fresh needles
  • alcohol wipe
  • lancet
  • fast acting glucose (read about using that in this scene of MISSING LYNX)
  • And a hair tie - because if you're using the glucose gel on someone, you'll have it in your hair.

Kit #2

  • shampoo taken from hotel stay because it works like soap.
  • lighter/cotton balls for fire starting
  • 2 glow sticks
  • tweezers (can use lighter to disinfect)
  • 2 different colors of duct tape - the bright pink is good for marking trails if you are lost. Also great for writing information for the EMT prior to their arrival when assessing and triaging folks. Just stick it on their arm at the wrist.
  • And grey is an all purpose helper. (They are each wrapped around used gift cards.)

Kit #3
Mini first aid 
  • honey works great for a bunch of issues from low glucose to wound care
  • benadryl in instant melt form can save someone having an allergic reaction

Kit #4 
Hair and Clothes

Kit #5
Meds - the basics 
  • Advil
  • Allergy
  • Pamperin (great for migraines)
  • Imodium

Kit #6 
Other first aid - (products for alternative use)

Now all of that goes into an outer carry case with pockets that contains:
  • umbrella with pen light
  • water
  • wand flashlight
  • pens
  • CPR kit with gloves and respiration mask
  • 6 meal replacement bars
  • red lipstick 

My keys:  
  • flashlight
  • multitool
  • whistle

Did you note how many forms of light I have?
1 high lumen hand held light wand
1 high lumen tactical flashlight
2 glow sticks
1 hand crank flashlight
1 mini pen light
(and if push came to shove) a lighter
8 forms of lighting. 

WHY??? you may ask. I have been involved in many a crisis, and it seems the one recurrent theme is it's pitch black. Emergencies in the dark are darned dangerous.

Did you notice the forms of food/glucose?
6  meal replacement bars
2 honey
1 tube glucose tablets
1 tube fast acting glucose
$ for emergency food
11 forms of possible sugar/food. 

WHY??? (I know the diabetes meter was a give away.) My kid #4 is a T-1 diabetic. BUT 1/3 of America has some form of diabetes. All of the emergency diabetic stuff I carry, in the ten years I have carried it, has only been used to save strangers' lives.

If I had lead a life different from the one I have, I would obviously carry different products in a different way. 

Things not on my priority list include brushes and makeup except for my energy boosting red lipstick which BTW is excellent for writing tourniqueted-limb times on foreheads etc. Ah, now would your character have had that thought when she put her lipstick in her bag?

What's in your character's wallet or purse? 
  • Will it help? 
  • Will it thwart? 
  • Will it give insight? 
  • Will it be a conversation starter?
  • MAYBE it will twist your plotline.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Sky's the Limit - Air Traffic Control: Info for Writers with NY Times USA Today Bestseller Allan Leverone

Fiona - 
ALLAN LEVERONE  - NY Times and USA Today Bestseller

A lot of my ThrillWriters and ThrillReaders are loving plots that include airplanes. To help us, Allan Leverone has stopped by to share his experience with us. 

Welcome Allan, let's begin by your explaining why I turned to you when I needed to make an emergency landing in my manuscript.

Allan - 
I've been an FAA air traffic controller for all of my adult life. I was hired March 1, 1982, when I was 22 years old, and have been telling pilots where to go ever since. 

Retirement is mandatory for controllers by the last day of the month in which they turn 56, so I'll be kicked to the curb at the end of this coming September. When that happens, I'll likely look to snag a job at one of the local contract control towers, where the privatized controllers are not subject to the age 56 limitation. 

Over the course of the last thirty-three years, I've worked in Bangor Maine, Providence Rhode Island, and for the last twenty-five years I've worked "approach control" radar at Boston's Logan International Airport. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on the pilot's end - flying is something I've never wanted to do - but as far as air traffic control is concerned, I would venture to say I've seen virtually all there is to see. I was working on 9/11/2001, when a supervisor said a plane had flown into the World Trade Center and I didn't believe him; and then when a second plane hit a second tower I knew we were in big trouble. I was working during the Boston Marathon bombing two years ago, when an emergency temporary flight restriction was set up around the bomb site, causing us to have to pull aircraft off the final approach course a
t Logan and giving us, for a while, no way to get the airplanes to the airport. I've worked planes with smoke in the cockpit, planes with rough running engines, planes with passengers who had suffered heart attacks, planes flown by private pilots who weren't instrument rated and were stuck in the clouds. I've worked Air Force One with every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. It's been a fun ride.

Fiona - 

Your job is pretty kick-ass at times, hopefully those times are few and far between. I have a friend who applied to be an air traffic controller but was turned down for training. Can you tell us the criteria for selection and what training you underwent?

Allan - 
Keep in mind that I was hired a LONG time ago. Back in August of 1981, the controller's union, PATCO, called for a strike against the government. People in safety related jobs are not allowed to strike, and ATC is considered to be in that category. So the president at the time, Ronald Reagan, fired all the striking controllers and basically rebuilt the ATC system from scratch. 

I had graduated college in May of 1981 and couldn't find a real job, so my father suggested I take the test to be a controller. I knew literally nothing about aviation, but wasn't doing anything the morning of the test, so I figured, "What the hell." I took the test in October 1981 and heard nothing from the FAA until the following February, when someone called me on a Friday and asked if I could be in Oklahoma for my initial job screen/training the following Monday. I said hell yes and for the next four months, I was in Oklahoma City getting my initial training. In June 1982, I graduated the ATC Academy and started my real training, at the control tower in Providence, RI. The hiring system is quite different now, I'm sure.

The initial training back then was actually a screening process, designed to test whether the applicant had the skills and abilities necessary to work air traffic. So, for the four months I spent in Oklahoma, I received a paycheck, but wasn't considered "hired" until I graduated that portion. The FAA Academy was - and still is - located in Oklahoma City. The initial training consisted of learning aircraft characteristics, and learning what was 
called "non-radar" air traffic control. It was a system of separating aircraft based on position reports and time/altitude reporting. It's rarely done anymore, only in places where radar coverage is limited or nonexistent. So the initial training is nationalized. Then, when I got to Providence Tower, my site-specific training started. I began that training in June 1982, and certified as a fully-rated controller at Providence in August 1983. The training at the airport consisted of me plugging in to work traffic with a fully certified trainer plugged in behind me, watching/critiquing everything I did. It was intense and stressful, but effective. 

Fiona - 
Surely you'd go cross eyed looking at screens all day - can you walk us through what a typical day looks like?

Allan -
Over my career, I've worked at a number of different facilities, but for the last 25 years, I've been a controller at Boston Tracon, which is the terminal radar approach control facility serving Logan International Airport in Boston. We work the airspace surrounding Logan from the surface to 14,000 feet, in a roughly 30 mile circle around the airport. My job consists of working sections of that airspace, called sectors, and separating/sequencing aircraft either departing Boston or landing there, via radar. I work four ten-hour days a week, and my time at work is spent working one of seven different Boston sectors, getting a break, and then going back and working another sector. I've never gone cross-eyed, but I did try wearing contacts several years ago; my eyes couldn't handle them with all that green on the radar scopes - I had to go back to glasses!

Fiona -
So Pilot has a heart attack and now the passenger has to take over the controls of the plane. Ach! They're depending on the tower to talk them through this and get them to the ground safely. Here's my barrage of questions (but you're a traffic controller so I know you can handle it): What do you do? And how do you know to do it? Do you also take flight school? Are traffic controllers typically pilots as well? Or are you just as confused if not just as panicky as the people in the air?

Allan - 

I'll answer the last question first - you can never panic. Ever. A controller who panics while in a working position is one that will never succeed at the job, and rightfully so. You have to stay calm and collected no matter the situation. 

At Boston, we actually had the exact situation you describe above. In the Manchester Area (not the area I work, but part of my facility), a young lady was flying with her father, who became incapacitated. The controller working that sector was also a pilot, and he actually "talked her down" to the runway, a young woman with zero flying experience. This controller received a national safety award for what he did that day. A lot of controllers are also pilots, although I'm not. If I ever had that scenario occur while I was working, the first thing I would do is holler for someone with flying experience to help me.

Fiona - 
You have a bunch of airplanes as little dots on you screen. One just up and disappears. What do you do?

Allan - 

  1. I would do is mark the location the target was last seen on the scope. That location will be critical for starting search and rescue operations. 
  2. I would be to turn around and advise the supervisor, who can begin the coordination to start SAR operations. 
  3. If it's a day with good weather, I would reroute another airplane over the last known location, as low as possible, to see if that pilot can see anything - smoke, wreckage, etc. 
Fiona -
Let's go back to the "no panicking ever" part. Do you find that in your day-to-day life that this skillset translates over - are you a rock in extreme situations?

Allan -
That's a good question, but I'm not sure how to answer it! I consider myself anything but a rock. However, one thing I guarantee I will not do in an extreme situation is panic. The difference is that I've been a controller for 34 years, so that stuff is ingrained into me to the point that I feel confident nothing will happen I'm not prepared for. As I'm sure you know, though, real life is not so accommodating. 

I'm probably just as ill-prepared as anyone else for the stuff life throws at me, so while I know I won't panic, I can't guarantee my decision-making process regarding how to deal with the situation will be any better than anyone else's. 

The other thing is I make decisions all day long at work, so when I get home, I hate deciding anything. What to have for dinner, what to watch on TV, I don't want to decide anything. It drives my wife crazy.

Fiona - 
Piggybacking on that question, can you tell me what kinds of personalities would be successful in this job and conversely, if a writer wants to make this turn out badly, what personality aspects would make a terrible career fit.

Allan - 
I think to be successful as a controller, you have to be able to think on your feet, you have to be able to remain calm under stress, and most importantly, you have to be able to take criticism. The training process is not easy, it can take years, and having people standing behind you, second-guessing your every move as a trainee, often with less-than-subtle criticism, is not easy. Plus, everything a controller says and does on position is recorded, audio data, radar data, everything, and if something bad happens, you have to be prepared to justify every action you took. 

Any writer wanting to make a "poor controller" would probably want to invent a controller who was arrogant, convinced of his own ability while not being technically proficient, and someone with a short fuse, who loses his patience easily. There's a recipe for disaster, and likely someone who would never make it through training.

Fiona - 
You get a call in that the plane has been taken over by hostiles. What do you do?

Allan -
I swear to you, this is not a cop-out - but I can't tell you everything I would do, because I'm prohibited from doing so. But speaking very generally, I would try to ascertain the desires of the flight crew - how they wished to approach the situation - and give them whatever they needed in terms of support. While doing that, I would start coordinating for assistance for the airplane, which could mean military support among many other things. From the standpoint of the controller working position, that would normally mean telling the supervisor what was happening and letting him/her perform the coordination function. As you might imagine, at that point I would be way too busy to make those phone calls myself! 

So not panicking.

Allan - 

Fiona - 
Small planes and flight plans - who needs to file and who needs to stay in contact with the tower? Would you see drug planes? Or would they try to fly under the radar?

Allan - 
The requirements as far as flight plans are concerned depend upon where the airplane is and whether they are flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) or VFR (Visual Flight Rules). 

VFR pilots are encouraged to file flight plans but there is no requirement for them to do so. However, a pilot flying VFR around major airports IS required to be in contact with the controllers and abide by safety instructions they are given while in the airspace surrounding that airport. 

IFR pilots always file flight plans. Being IFR means the pilot is capable and qualified to fly in the clouds, in poor weather, using only his/her instruments. Flying IFR without a flight plan can't happen. 

The question about drug planes is an interesting one, because I think a lot of people who aren't too familiar with aviation think every pilot is always talking to a controller, and that's definitely NOT the case. Any pilot who understands the rules and knows what he or she is doing, can go a lifetime without ever talking to a single controller, as long as they fly out of small airports and are careful what airspace they fly in. So for a drug plane in this area of the country to fly under the radar really wouldn't be necessary. There is no way for me as a controller to know a particular target is carrying drugs. That's not to say the DEA or FBI or some other alphabet soup organization doesn't have the pilot under surveillance, but that's another situation entirely.

Fiona - 
In my book Missing Lynx my heroine Lexi is flying a Cessna C500 Citation. She lost electrical and has no comms. Can you tell me what you would do if a plane suddenly came onto your screen and would not answer? Would this answer change if you knew the plane was flying near military bases or other high-concern targets? (I swear I'm not trying to get you to divulge safety secrets - just what you can tell us without NSA pounding on either of our doors)

Allan - 
If she was flying IFR, on an instrument flight plan, and was experiencing no other immediate issues that would affect the plane's airworthiness, I would continue to attempt to communicate with her on the frequency, while expecting her to continue on her previously cleared route of flight. 

I would advise the next sectors that she was NORDO (no radio) and would try to call her on the standard emergency frequency of 121.5 as well as on my sector's frequency. 

If I saw her deviate from her cleared route of flight while not maintaining communication, I would attempt to determine where she was likely heading and would - obviously - clear any other traffic out of her flight path as best I could without knowing exactly where she was heading. I would at that point assume the flight was in serious trouble. 

If the plane was flying near high-concern targets, it would change the response - not in terms of what I would be doing to try to re-establish contact, but it would add additional layers of response.

Fiona -
Can you please tell me what a typical work setting would look like. Describe the room where you function and the room where you rest your eyes. How comfy/sterile is it? What is the lighting like? Do they adjust temps to help keep your mind focused? Maybe a little cooler than normal? And what kinds of clothes are the norm?

Allan - 
The facility I work in is relatively new, it opened in February 2004, and is large and comfy, especially when compared to the little tiny space we worked in at Logan Airport before the new one opened. 

When you walk into the operations room, you walk into a big, oval room. Radar scopes run around the outer portion of the room, and the inner portion consists of the workspaces for the supervisors and traffic management specialists. The lighting is dim, not dark, and you can see everything. There's lots of equipment, along with multi-colored warning lights, plasma screens on the walls depicting traffic into and out of Boston and Manchester. It kind of reminds me of watching the old show 24, and the facility where Jack Bauer operated out of.

I wear jeans and a golf shirt or a t-shirt - we don't wear white shirts and black ties anymore like you see in the control tower if you watch "Airplane."

Fiona - 
Last chance, what didn't I ask you that you think we should all know?

Allan - 
I'd just like to say that as a guy at the end of my career - I have to retire in September - I've been incredibly blessed to work as a controller since I was 22. The level of technical ability and dedication I've seen from controllers as a group is something people don't truly understand, I don't think, especially when you hear about the sleeping scandals or the stupid things one or two controllers may have done. I'm lucky to have had the chance to actually make a difference in a positive way when I go to work and I wouldn't change a thing about my career...

Fiona - 
I love that! Thank you for keeping us safe, Allan.

You work 4 days on and in your three days off you are writing. Tell us about your newest book. (Which, by the way, I read and LOVED! and left an Amazon review.)

Allan - 
Read It Now

Book synopsis: Tracie Tanner doesn't always play by the rules. It's this personality trait that makes her simultaneously one of the CIA's most valued assets and an operative who is impossible to employ. As the blackest of black ops specialists, Tanner's employment is known only to CIA Director Aaron Stallings, who hands her only the most secret - and most dangerous - of missions. 

In THE OMEGA CONNECTION, when the entire upper-management structure of a key defense contractor is murdered, Stallings puts Tanner on the case, with instructions to find - and stop - the killers by any means necessary. With action moving from Washington DC to Miami, from Havana to the Florida Everglades, THE OMEGA CONNECTION is a non-stop thrill ride that will leave the reader compulsively turning the pages...

Fiona - 

And, per our tradition, please tell us about your favorite scar.

Allan -
Fifty-five years of life have left me with any number of scars, some of them even physical. But my most harrowing experience didn't involve any injury at all. It was June, 1982. I had completed my initial air traffic control training/job screen in Oklahoma City and was celebrating my final weekend in Oklahoma with a half-dozen other young, newly-hired controllers. We were drinking at a huge bar - maybe they do things big in Texas, but Oklahoma is no slouch either - and for some reason a guy at another table took exception to something about one of my buddies. He kept throwing ice at my friend, who kept ignoring it. After last call, when the bar's doors closed for the night, the crowd was streaming into the massive parking lot when my friend saw the guy who had been tormenting him all night. He walked up behind the guy, and just like you would see in the movies, tapped him on the shoulder and then cold-cocked him when he turned around. Unsurprisingly, a brawl erupted, and being a lover not a fighter, I was only too happy to step back and watch the action. But then a guy I had never seen before, but was obviously a friend of the kid who had been punched, came at me with a knife. I took off running, and I guarantee that if you had held a stopwatch on me that night, I would have set a world record for the hundred meter dash! No scars, but an experience I'll never forget. At least until the Alzheimer's sets in.

Fiona -

If you all want to stay in touch with Allan here are his links:

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nature V. Nurture in Your Characters: Info for Writers

Nature V. Nurture is an interesting philosophical/psychological debate that has a great deal of import to the story lines that we are creating. Indeed, it is one of the themes that I am exploring in my new Lynx series, starting with Book One ~ Weakest Lynx.  

Buy It Now

In Weakest Lynx

What Lexi wants is a simple life. What she gets is simply terrifying.

Lexi Sobado is a 20-year-old experienced intelligence consultant with a special psychic gift. However, her gift couldn’t prevent her from becoming the focus of a stalker’s desires. With a death threat shoved in her purse, she finds herself caught in the middle of a sinister web of crime and corruption.

Striker Rheas, a seasoned special agent, is charged with keeping Lexi safe. But can he keep his personal life separate from his professional life as he finds himself falling for his assignment?

What Lexi hides, what she reveals, and what she keeps trying to uncover is a delicate balancing act as she tries to save her own life and stop the killer. Can Lexi learn to love, trust, and harness the power of her psychic flashes before it’s too late?


In Lexi Sobado I have crafted a golden girl. You all know at least one of these - the girl at your highschool who was a track star, an honor student, and the Homecoming Queen? But Lexi doesn't see herself as a standout amongst genetic award winners or even among those pushed and prodded by life's circumstances onto the awards' podium. She never got to show off on a public stage to get that kind of feedback. She thinks her skillsets are nothing special just different.

Lexi's parents kept her home to unschool her. Unschooling is like homeschool only less organized. Practically minded, her parents gave her a hands-on, real-world, useful education. She learned applied sciences from her dad, a mechanic, and creative expression from her mom, an artist. She also learned from her neighbors - anyone and everyone who had a skillset to teach her from martial arts by Master Wang at the dry cleaner to the locksmith across the way at the stripmall. Hairdressers, homemakers, primate zoologists are all part of the myriad  teachers who moved in and out of Lexi's life. Amongst them, Lexi's most beloved mentor was Spyder McGraw who trained her brain and her reflexes to follow her career goal of becoming a modern day Kung Fu Nancy Drew.

But here's the question - did Lexi's personal curiosity, drive, and acumen shape whom she became or was it her unusual background?

That's sort of like "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
A person with low IQ and slow metabolism  would find Lexi's frenetic lifestyle impossible. A person who wasn't taught meditation and other stress management skills would have a hard time coping with the shit that kept hitting the fan in Lexi's life.

Obviously, the more we think about how our characters arrived at the people they are at the moment the story opens, the more three dimensional, believable, and interesting they will be for our readers. Think about your heroine.

  • What natural gifts was she born with?
  • Were they nurtured of left uncovered?
  • Did her life experience train her to overcome something she lacked in her genetic code?
  • What was her emotional state based on nurture?
    • How was she treated by the people in her life up until this point?
    • What would she expect of others in their reactions to her - the golden girl in high school may expect doors to open while the foster kid who changed schools every three or four months might expect all those doors to slam shut in her face.
    • What kinds of stresses had she endured?
    • Did her stress load teach her resilience? Or did it errode her ability to cope? 
  • What was her emotional state based on nature?
    • Gregarious?
    • Combative?
    • Assertive?
  • What was her emotional state based on her life's circumstances?
    • Was she taught to be demure and quiet?
    • Was she taught to fight for what she needs?
  • What are her physical capabilities?
    • Was she born with two-left feet?
    • Did her parents put her in every sports class they could find to help her develop stamina and coordination?
    • Is she more comfortable sitting on a couch and reading about/watching others in action?
    • Can she not sit still; does she always need to be in motion?
  • How does she interact with her environment?
    • Was she born a neat nick, feeling better able to cope when her environment isn't chaotic or does she prefer a lived-in look where she can feel more creative?
    • Did she develop OCD - an anxiety disorder - and need everything to be perfect?
    • Did she develop skillsets from a family who gave her chores? Or has she no clue how to do the basics because her mom preferred to do it herself or they had domestic help?
  • How does she interact with others?
    • Extravert?
    • Introvert?
    • Event dependent?
  • And what about the sixth sense?
    • Was your heroine born with the ability to read people? 
    • Does she get a "gut check" when things are going wrong?"
    • Was she trained to rely on data and weigh stats over using her intuition?
    • Where does she land on the spectrum of intuition and how is this augmented or downplayed by her spiritual background?
These types of questions can continue as you sit down and think about your character. Knowing their innate propensity can be a starting point - but what happens when nature conflicts with nurture? 
  • The boy who wants to play the violin and read books is born into a family of diehard football fans.  
  • The girl who wants to run and climb trees born into the family that wants to raise a princess. 
  • The family who raised a doctor - but that doctor only wants to paint.
Available for Pre-sale

Nature V. Nurture can create wonderful external conflict especially in the deeper relationships and in dire circumstances.  But also think of all of that delicious inner conflict that roils in the gut when our characters are pushed and pulled by sometimes opposing forces. Conflict makes for fabulous prose. 

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Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Bomb Squads 101 Information for Writers


English: Training with bomb robot 1
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


We watched the monitor closely; the robot stood flush with the case. A pincer reached out to twirl the locking system, using the combination that I had uncovered while behind the Veil. The mechanical arm moved with amazing dexterity, slowly releasing the catch, retrieving the papers and files. Axel wiggled the toggle and the robot zipped back to us with the booty. Again Axel maneuvered the machine to the case. The robot sent a video image to our laptop; I studied the screen until I could show Axel where the concealed latch protected the hidden compartment. We all held our breath while Axel maneuvered the motorized claw to release the hook. 

The following information was gathered from bomb squad members that I met at this year's Writers' Police Academy. Because of their undercover work, neither their names nor images can be used in this article. A bomb squad member is also called an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Technician. All EOD Techs come through the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama where they undergo an intensive 6 week training session.
* There are at least two people per responding team.
* Typically this team prefers nine members
* On this team, the EOD techs have other police duties and leave those duties to respond to bomb threats.

The Suit

Bomb Protective Suit is a little bit of a misnomer. Though it can help; it will not actually keep someone alive under all circumstances. What makes a difference in survivability?
* How close is the officer?
* How big is the blast? The concussion of the blast can be as deadly as the shrapnel.
* At five feet from the bomb survivability increases by 50%

I am all suited up at the Writers' Police Academy 2013

I'd explain this to you, but then I'd...  EOD Suit WPA 2013

 VIDEO QUICK STUDY - suit and safety features (2:54)

*Is made of various materials including Kevlar to prevent penetration and ceramic plates to help disperse the
Suit Components WPA 2012
  blast concussion.
* Cost? aprox 75k
* The suit weighs approximately 85-100 lbs.
   35 lbs for the trousers
   35 lbs. for the jacket
   8 lbs. for the helmet
   And boots.
   This suits allows little in the way of dexterity and
    agility. More armor might increase protection 
    but make movement impossible.
   (Though this guy is going to prove me wrong: VIDEO QUICK STUDY - dancing in a EOD suit 2:17)
   * The helmet includes a fan unit to help prevent  humidity from building up inside of the visor. But
      does not cool the person inside.
   * The suit has no cooling unit - considering the  weight of the suit, the body response to adrenaline and 
       physical activity, and the ambient temperature a bomb technician has about a twenty minute window
       of operational opportunity. 
   * If there is a possibility of a contaminant or bio-hazard, the team members have access to special suits
      that incorporate oxygen tanks (SCBA Self-contained Breathing Apparatus). These tanks add to the
      weight and loss of agility. These usually have about 45 minutes of air. That time period must include time 
      to "decon" (decontaminate).

VIDEO QUICK STUDY - Tools in use (3:53)
1. Telescopic manipulator - has a claw allowing a technician to work from a safer distance.
2. Ordinance disposal tools - the one we saw was approx. 35 lbs and could shoot the bomb. Also, there
   * robots with hooks, arms, car door openers, etc.
   * water jet disruptors
A Belgian Malinois of a police K-9 unit.
A Belgian Malinois of a police K-9 unit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   * laser aiming devices, and so forth.
3. Remote viewing systems that might include
  * Borescopes
  * Videoscopes
  * Fiberscopes
  * X-ray technology 
4. Disruptors - can open up the package.
5. Bomb Detection Dogs
   * Dogs are typically taught to sit or lie down when
      they detect the scent.
   * Typically they are rewarded with a ball
   * Dogs are trained to the base component of
      explosives. Once they have these components
      any combination will trigger an alert. Dogs smell
      differently than humans if a human smells "stew," a
       dog  smells carrots, and beef and onion, etc.
WPA 2013 That's my scary  backpack.
 I named the robot  "Molly," because she needed a name.
6. Robots
   * Cost? Approx 125K and up
   * Depending on model, these are around 44 lbs.
   * VIDEO QUICK STUDY (3:41) 
   * Major issue is depth perception. That's
      why these techs practice, practice,
   * Information is transmitted via wireless to
      the  HAZMAT truck

Video Quick Study British EOD Tech talking about the "Long Walk" and assessment  (2:38)
For a bomb to go off there need to be three components:
1. Battery
2. Switch
3. High Explosive Charge
Disrupt any of these and you render the bomb inoperable.

Basic Techniques

(Techniques are kept secret so as not to train the attacker in better ways to succeed)
VIDEO QUICK STUDY - Suspicious Package Investigation (9:02)
1. Determine that there is a possible event. In the case of the technicians I was interviewing, most of their
    calls come from people who have found dynamite, or war souvenirs (WWII from granddad) and not
    from actual concerns about a bomb.
WPA 2013 Bomb Extraction Truck
2. Bring in the team and their trucks
   * Mobile Headquarters with gear also called
      HAZMAT Truck
   * Containment Truck
   * EMTs and fire
3. Clear the area to ensure the public's safety
   * Set up equipment this might include tenting if
      they believe bio-hazardous materials were
4. Suit up
5. Develop intelligence
   * They cannot use radio communication because it could set off the bomb.
6. Formulate a plan
7. Work the plan and leave.
   * If they are exploding something they yell, "FIRE IN THE HOLE!" three times.
   * Exploding the object is called "disrupting the device."
   * Counter Charge - means to put another explosive device on top of the suspected bomb and blow it up
   * Video Quick Study (4:50)

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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